School of Theology and Seminary Graduate Papers/Theses

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Date of Award


Document Type

Graduate Paper

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Theology


School of Theology and Seminary

First Advisor

Susan Wood, SCL

Subject Categories

Christianity | Ethics in Religion | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion


Catholic sexual ethics continue to be strained by the tension between the unitive and procreative dimensions of sex in marriage as lived experience is given greater attention in contemporary theologies of conjugal union. The intent of this paper is to explore this tension in light of shifts to a more personalist approach in the documents of Vatican II, Paul VI, and John Paul II. An exploration of John Paul II's "Theology of the Body "considers the tension created by this personalist emphasis, a tension which remains irreconcilable within a system where the "order of nature" maintains, however subtly, priority over the "order of reason. Preservation of the equality of the procreative and unitive dimensions within marriage requires greater integration, respecting the dialectic tension between love and life, yielding to mature moral decision-making based not only on a respect for goals and duties but also on a sensitivity to the context of ongoing interactions with God other, and the world. The traditional conceptual system is no longer an adequate response to the growing number of anomalies within the system; Roman Catholic sexual ethics is thus confronted with the invitation to develop new conceptual frameworks to address the tensions.


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